Researcher Jose Martinez Carranza at Mexico's National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics, and Electronics (INAOE) is developing a drone that can fly autonomously, navigating with the use of cameras and basic sensors instead of global positioning systems (GPS).
The drone is part of a larger project called robust autonomous flight of unmanned aerial vehicles in GPS-denied outdoor areas (RAFAGA), which seeks to develop different methods of achieving autonomous flight in challenging situations, such as during high winds or in areas without GPS coverage.
The GPS-free drone builds on work Martinez Carranza did during his postdoctoral studies at the University of Bristol in Britain, in cooperation with Blue Bear, which provided the drones and control algorithms. Martinez Carranza also received financing from various government programs.
The drone is launched manually, but once in the air, its autonomous control algorithms take over, using cameras to identify its location and orient itself in its surroundings. It then uses camera images and data from accelerometers and gyroscopes to navigate to preprogrammed navigation points autonomously.
Martinez Carranza sees a number of possible civil applications for the drone, including surveillance and the inspection and exploration of properties.
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